Friday, March 26, 2010

Problem with Protein Shakes

For the last few years people have been clammoring for protein shakes. Athletes, recreational & competitive, non-athletes, dieters, people-on-the-go, just about everywhere you look, someone is 'in to' protein shakes. That includes me, too. Nutrition companies are not stupid either. Almost all of them have concocted a 'super smoothie' of some sort. Capitalizing on the 'energy drink' market and on the tailend of the low-carb craze, protein shake makers are mixing (no pun intended) this all together in their marketing of their products. How many of the protein shakes out there push themselves as either 'Low Carb' or 'energy' packed, or both? I think you know what I'm sayin'. The problem with this is that most of them are CRAP. The average person is so uneducated about nutrition that they've been sucked into this protein shake craze that they think, "I'm getting my protein and hardly any carbs." As if they are bragging about it. I'm not putting anyone down, its just a that they (companies) know that we rely on them for truthfull information. They get us to waist our money on their products. Its a waist because if a protein shake is also low carb, then you are NOT getting your protein. That's one reason crappy-ass Adkins-type diets cause weight loss. To simplify it, there is a ton of protein in the diet (feel full and satisfied), but because there are so few carbs included, the protein is not absorbed and goes right thru you--literally, into the plumbing system. Ratio, with regards to carb-to-protein, is a major factor in what makes protein shake worth drinking. Again, to make it really simple, the idea is to get a shake that is either 3:1 or 4:1, carbs-to-protein. Meaning that you need 3 or 4 carbs to every 1 gram of protein. So, why would a company bottle up a low-carb, high protein shake, or sell it by the tubs (powder)? Because suckers by it for $2-4 a pop or drop some serious change for a big tub of it. Many of these shakes or powders are 20 grams of protein and 2 -5 carbs. Completely worthless (unless you add the carbs when you make shake or eat some carbs with it). If you go with the 4:1 rule, and take a shake that is 4 carbs and 20 grams of protein, that is a 1:5 ratio--just about the complete opposite of what is needed. That means only 1 gram of the 20 you paid for are being metabolized because you need 4 carbs for every 1 gram of protein. The protein is going down the drain with the money you spent on it.

Some will argue that they are 'doing the protein shake thing' to lose weight and protein makes you full. Ok, fine. But if you are an athlete trying to keep full AND get the protein you need, you gotta do it right. The easy fix: take the protein grams and multiply by 3 or 4. Then try to get close to that number in carbs added to your shake. If you are drinking a pre-made bottled low carb hight protein shake, eat some good carbs like whole grains, rices, pasta (even white pasta is ok for athletes burning a lot of cals) along with the shake. If you are making a shake on your own, add juice, frozen fruit, rice or almond milk (or other low protein milks). Soy milk is ok, but it also boosts up the protein end of the ratio because soy is an excellent source for a complete-protein. On the other hand, unless you buy unsweetened soy milk, there are added carbs in the form of sugar--usually dehydrated cane juice--so you are adding carbs too. I like to use soy milk and then reduce the amount of protein powder I add to the blender, which makes the powder go a little further.

If you don't go for the pre-bottled drinks, protein powders are a good, fairly inexpensive way to make your own shake, but, as noted above, are low carb so you'll have to add carbs (more info below). When looking for powders, stick with protein powders that DO NOT have whey or casein in them. I know, I know, "whey protein" is all the rage, but it's shit. Really. That's why its so cheap and everywhere--even Wal-mart sells protein powder. Animal derived protein puts a lot of stress on your system. Not just your GI system. Your GI system adapts to pretty much anything you put in it. Your overall system pays the price. Animal derived proteins actually cause the need for a lot more calcium (among other problems they cause). Calcium is robbed from your bones in order for the body to digest and absorb the animal derived protein. We're told to eat more dairy to get more calcium. So people do that-- they take in more dairy, which contains animal protein, which means you need more calcium, so you eat more dairy. Can you see where the circle keeps going? Go for protein powders that are plant based. Soy powder is good, is a complete protein source, mixes and disolves very well, and is just about free of that 'protein taste' that whey powders have. If you have a soy allergy there are other proteins out there to choose from and it helps to have a variety of options in your 'protein shake' options arsenal. There are hemp proteins, grain proteins, and others -- you just have to look for them. You may pay extra, but this is your body, and you only get one so go for quality, not quanity. Most powders will have an amino complex built in, in addition to a vitamin complex. Plus, if you are eating a varied diet based in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (black beans, pinto beans, etc), then you will get plenty of nutrients in the long run so you don't need to have a powder that has everything under the sun in it.

Here's a simple shake recipe:

1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 banana
1/2 scoop of protein powder** (if the powder is 20-24 grams of protein, you only need a half scoop if using soy milk)
A few ounces of juice
Plain or vanilla soy milk
1 tsp pre-ground flaxseed

Add all to the blender and grind it up. Keep adding the milk till you get your desired consistency. The end result will give you a shake with about 15 to 20 grams of protein and plenty good carbs to make the protein count. The flax adds some omega's and fiber.Experiment with different juices, fruits, an milks. You can use ice cubes and go with non-frozen fruit if you think you need more water/hydration from your shake too. There are several milks you can find at stores like Whole Foods, HyVee, the Good Food Store (Rochester)--any big grocery store with a health food section usually has a lot of milks that many people don't even know exist. They come from different sources like almond, soy, hemp, coconut (So Delicious makes a freaky-good drinkable coconut milk in a carton). Many milks come in different variations like vanilla, chocolate, coffee, light, light vanilla, etc.

One tip: drink your shakes ASAP after a workout. Liquid nutrition is aborbed faster to start repairing muscles after a workout. No excuses-- pre-make and freeze them so you can bring them to the gym, to work, etc. Use the nuker to make them drinkable.


Brian said...

Blueberry-banana smoothie at breakfast for me lately. Just wish cleanup was easier!

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